My father used to tell me a story about how he escaped the Nazis in 1939. He was living in Prague when the Nazis entered in March 1939, they immediately moved to expel all the Jews to Hungary. My father and a few of his friends fled over the mountains and snuck into Poland instead and made their way to Warsaw. But a voice in my father’s head told him, “Get out of Europe. Don’t stay here.” He listened to that voice and with the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society was able to get passage to England, where he arrived in June 1939. Two months later in August, the Germans invaded Poland and WWII began. Had he stayed in Poland, as most of his friends did, he probably would have perished. Something, intuition, who knows what, made him act. That action saved his life.
In this week’s Torah portion, the Israelites are trapped between the sea and Pharaoh’s army. It seems they will be carried back to slavery in chains before they have even left Egypt. At that moment God says to Moses, ““Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward.” (Exodus 14:15) According to our Sages of blessed memory, at this moment of deepest crisis, that a leader of the Tribe of Judah, Nahshon ben Aminadav leaps into the sea, and when he does the Sea of Reeds begins to part (Mekhilta d’Rabbi Yishmael 14:22).
There are moments when we need to think, there are moments when we need to pray, and there are moments when we need to act. For the Israelites their freedom depended on it. Or, in the case of my father, our lives may depend on it.
God is our partner, but that means God cannot make things happen in this world without us doing our part.
~Rabbi Dean Kertesz